How to rock Facebook but maintain some respectability

Posted on Thursday, Feb 18, 2010

(Originally posted on 1/30/2009 – updated for the latest Facebook settings)

So you’ve given in to the peer pressure and signed up with Facebook. You’ve hunted down your old high school pals. You suddenly have a strong option on the Pirates v. Ninjas debate. You play Scrabulous Lexulous.It’s great. Everyone is on the Fizzy Bizzy.

But then, you realize…

EVERYONE is on the Fizzy Bizzy. Including your boss. Including your business partners. Including your mom. And they all now can see the Wall posts in which you refer to Gov. Blagojevich as “that douchebag with the piece”.You have three options:

1) Delete your Facebook account and never use the Internets again. This is less than ideal, as you will find yourself completely cut out of modern society and will have no idea what your friends consider the 25 most interesting bits of trivia about themselves.

2) Strip all interesting content from your Facebook. This actually doesn’t solve the problem, as if your sister-in-law tags you in a photo doing a keg stand in Wrigleyville, your manager will still be able to see it.

3) Implement Custom Security Privacy Awesomeness. Hereafter referred to as CSPA, Custom Security Privacy Awesomeness is your solution for being able to be a wild and crazy Facebooker with the people who can handle it, but buttoning-down and synergizing strategic Powerpoints with those who need to see you as someone respectable who doesn’t even know how to pronouce Jagermeister.

The obvious choice is Option 3…CSPA. And luckily for you, I am willing to share these secrets with you, for a lower cost than a ShamWow. That’s right – you can learn to lock down your Facebook for fun and profit (okay, just fun) for free. And I will be your guide.

Instructions, after the jump!

The first step is to determine how you will “break down” your Friends on Facebook. The ideal method is to look at them as security boundaries; what are the different “classes” of security that you will want to implement? The easiest way to do this is to limit it to two types; “All Access” and “Restricted”. My setup is a little more complicated, which is what I will use for the illustrations below – but I will refer to the “All Access” and “Restricted” concept if you want to keep it that easy.

For me, I have broken down my Friends to the following groups:

“All Access” – These are the people I trust. The people who can see all my secrets.

“Family” – Self-explanatory. Folks I am related to. At this point, they’re not a security boundary (they have the same rights as “All Access”) but I keep this group in case there ever is a one-off scenario where I would prefer my family-type folks to not see a specific Note, for example.

“HS” – A group that contains people I went to high school or college with. This group has very similar permissions to Family, except that certain restricted contact information may be withheld.

“Professional” – People I work with or who are business partners of mine. This group tends to not see anything juicy.

“Twitter” – Folks I interact with solely on social networks. This group is restricted from seeing my contact information.

Setting up your lists

To create these groups, click on the “Friends” link in the left menu of Facebook. Then, on the top right, click on the button “Create a List”:

This will prompt you to name your new list. For this one, call it “All Access”.

Now you want to click on all of the people you want to be on that list. Just click on their name to add them, and continue to scroll through. Once you have finished selecting the users, click on “Create List”

You now have your new “All Access” list. Do it again and create a list called “Restricted”.

If you want to add users to a list after you’ve created it, just  click on the “Friends” button in the left menu, to expand to show all of your lists. Then click on the list you want to edit:

This will show you all of your Friends on that list. Then click the “Edit List” button to get the screen to add/remove users from the list.

This brings up the “Extra Friend Detail” view. Notice the little drop-down triangle next to “View Friends”. Click on it.

Locking it down

Now that you have your Friends all shuffled into their proper groups, it’s time to do some privacy lockdown. Hang on tight, as this is not for the faint of heart and it could take a while.

First, under Account, click on Privacy Settings:

We’ll start with your Profile privacy.

There are a lot of settings here. We won’t go through all of them, but I will show you how to lock down one, and you can apply the same concept to any other settings.

We’ll start with “Photos Tagged Of You”. Click the little drop-down next to that setting (the default is “Friend of Friends”, I believe), and choose “Customize”

Now this is where it gets tricky. Take a look at the screen that comes up:

You might think “Aha! I know what to do! I will put the ‘Restricted’ group into ‘Hide this from’! I’m so smart!”

Close, but not exactly. Here’s the problem with that system – if you base it upon exclusions, any Friend of yours can see that content until you put them in the Restricted group. What happens if you get a Friend request from someone, and approve it on your smartphone, but don’t get a chance to put them into the Restricted group until a day later? During that entire time, that person has full reign to view all your tequila shot pictures. No good.

So we’ll do it the other way. In the “Make this visible to” dropdown, choose “specific people”:

You can type in both individual friends (cumbersome!) or the name of a Friends List. Type in “All Access” in that group and select it.

Once you’ve done it for that setting, you can continue to set up all the different restrictions you would like. Don’t forget to visit all of the other settings on the Privacy page. You can change the settings on the “Contact Information” the same way we did for “Profile Information”.

<h2>
  Keep your friends from being able to share information about you
</h2>

<p>
  An important set of settings is the &#8220;Applications and Websites&#8221; section:
</p>

<p style="text-align: center;">
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5936" title="app-edit-settings-button" src="/wp-content/uploads/app-edit-settings-button.png" alt="" width="450" height="183" srcset="/wp-content/uploads/app-edit-settings-button.png 450w, /wp-content/uploads/app-edit-settings-button-300x122.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 450px) 100vw, 450px" />
</p>

<p>
  Click on &#8220;Edit Settings&#8221;, and then UNCHECK all of the boxes:
</p>

<p>
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5937" title="app-settings-protect" src="/wp-content/uploads/app-settings-protect.png" alt="" width="480" height="428" srcset="/wp-content/uploads/app-settings-protect.png 480w, /wp-content/uploads/app-settings-protect-300x267.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" />
</p>

<h2>
  Restricting access to Notes, Photos, and Updates
</h2>

<p>
  Another area to investigate is who can see specific items you post. Maybe you are writing a Note about how much you hate your job &#8211; you wouldn&#8217;t want your boss to see it, right? (Fair warning &#8211; even with privacy filters in place, you shouldn&#8217;t put anything really sensitive on Facebook, because if the privacy stuff ever breaks, you could be screwed)
</p>

<h3>
  Notes
</h3>

<p>
  When you are writing a new Note, at the bottom of the screen you will see a menu with a little &#8220;lock&#8221; icon (pro tip &#8211; the &#8220;lock&#8221; icon is used all over Facebook for areas where you can set specific permissions)
</p>

<p>
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5938" title="Facebook notes security" src="/wp-content/uploads/notes.png" alt="" width="269" height="183" />Again, the &#8220;Customize&#8221; choice will let you either block access to the Note based upon a List, or only allow access to a specific list
</p>

<h3>
  Photos
</h3>

<p>
  Access to specific photo albums can be a little trickier. When you create a new album, it will give you the option to set the security. But if you want to change security on an existing album, you get there via the Profile Information link under Account | Privacy Settings. Then click on the button that says &#8220;Edit Settings&#8221; next to &#8220;Photo Albums&#8221;
</p>

<p>
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5939" title="photo-edit" src="/wp-content/uploads/photo-edit.png" alt="" width="480" height="340" srcset="/wp-content/uploads/photo-edit.png 480w, /wp-content/uploads/photo-edit-300x212.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" />
</p>

<p>
  This will give you a list of all your albums. Next to each will be a drop-down list to set the security.
</p>

<h3>
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5940" title="photo-privacy" src="/wp-content/uploads/photo-privacy.png" alt="" width="350" height="280" srcset="/wp-content/uploads/photo-privacy.png 350w, /wp-content/uploads/photo-privacy-300x240.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 350px) 100vw, 350px" />Status Updates/Links
</h3>

<p>
  When you post a new Status Update (or share a link) you have the same ability to restrict who can see it. For example:
</p>

<p>
  <img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-5941" title="Secure Facebook status updates" src="/wp-content/uploads/status-lockdown.png" alt="" width="400" height="163" srcset="/wp-content/uploads/status-lockdown.png 400w, /wp-content/uploads/status-lockdown-300x122.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 400px) 100vw, 400px" />
</p>

<p>
  So there you have it. The basics of the CSPA. Of course, there are multiple ways to lock down Facebook, and more issues than just the ones raised here. But hopefully, this will get you started.
</p>

<p>
  <em>How do YOU lock down your Facebook? Tell me in the comments!</em>
</p>

<p>
  Privacy photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nitot/" target="_blank">nitot</a> via Creative Commons
</p>

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